Tag Archives: design

Apple and the limits of minimalism as a design quality

I like minimalism as a quality in phones. But when I look at the phone above, I see two bulges. One is the camera, and two is this battery pack. It’s as if companies want to have the best of both worlds: minimal design and maximum capacity. But rather than designing for it, we get….well, what you see above.

I understand the economics of it. I just don’t see why Apple doesn’t spend more time to design a battery pack and a camera that incorporates better into the phone.

For more on the battery pack, go here: Apple’s ‘Camel Hump’ battery pack is back… this time in a wireless MagSafe avatar | Yanko Design

(Image: link to image in the article)

 

Bring back A/V equipment that looks like furniture! :)

Ok, that’s not going to happen. I suspect most audio-visual equipment is going to look more like computers and less like furniture for the foreseeable future. Most, but not all. Take the bluetooth speaker above. Yep, that’s a bluetooth speaker! The tech is modern, but the enclosure is a throwback to midcentury modern. I love it.

For more on it, see: Hifi Case Aura 2 Speaker | Uncrate

 

I only have one thought on this insane chair designed with your cat in mind

And that thought is this: no matter how much of this piece of furniture is devoted to your cat, the only place your cat will want to go is where you are sitting!

I honestly think this furniture is insane, but I am sure for some cat lovers, it is a dream come true. To each their own.

For more on this piece of fantasy furniture, go here: This furniture design is a functional piece for you and a playful landscape for your cat! | Yanko Design

 

Beautiful bookcase, beautiful desk

For fans of beautiful bookcases, beautiful desks, or both, check out these two from Yanko Design:

Stunning. I wish I had both.

For fans of minimalism and cats

For fans of minimalism and cats comes this minimalist cat tower. I mean, it looks great. The tower, I mean. Of course the cat looks great. 🙂

Via Yanko Design

Desks of the near future

I’m not sure what the desk or workstation of the near future might look like, but these two articles are providing some ideas:

  1. This home office desk comes with hidden storage systems to keep your desk setup organized! | Yanko Design
  2. This retractable office solution provides privacy and isolation for remote work and WFH days! | Yanko Design

With the pandemic still ongoing, the thought of going back in the office seems remote, but when we do, I expect things are going to start to look different. They might even look like these designs.

Why it takes longer than four hours to build a system for a large organization like a bank or a government

A lot of people have very strong opinions about the IT that has been rolled out for Ontario’s vaccine distribution system. I understand that: it has been very challenging for people to get a vaccine here in this province. People look at other provinces like Nova Scotia with their centralized system and ask why didn’t the province do that. They look at this site some very smart guys hacked together in four hours that allows you to text it and get back nearby vaccination sites and they say the government should be more like that. They attribute the government with being cheap, racist and other things, and say they didn’t build a good IT system because of that.

I have strong opinions about the vaccine IT that has been built out for the province too.  The difference is that my opinions are based on working on several large scale projects with the province. It’s also based on working on emerging IT for several decades. I’d like to share it in the hope it helps people gain some perspective as to what is involved.

Building IT systems for a large organization, private or public, is difficult. There are many stakeholders involved and many users involved and often many existing IT systems involved. You have to meet the needs of all of them, and you often have to go through many reviews with internal reviewers to demonstrate your new IT system meets their standards before you can start to build anything. Even then, with all of that, the IT system you are about to build could still fail. Big organizations are very sensitive to this and work diligently to prevent it. You can’t just hack together a proof of concept one day and then the next day have it go live on some banking or government site. Not in my experience.

Failure is a big concern. Another big concern is the needs of the stakeholders. For government systems there are many of them. There were over 50 other organizations that I had to work with external to the government on the projects I was leading. Each had their own IT systems and their own way of doing things. We could not just come in and say throw out your existing IT and use this new thing. There was a whole onboarding process that had to be developed to bring them into the new way of doing things. And that didn’t include all the people in the province or the country who will use the IT system and are therefore are also big stakeholders: they were taken into account and consulted separately.

A third big concern is systems integration. Not only do you need to work with the external IT systems of the stakeholders mentioned above, you have to work with internal IT systems to get data or send them data. In all cases that means not only do you need to understand what the government needs the new IT  system to do, but it means you have to have some understanding of how all these other systems work. Your new IT system can not be effective if you don’t know how to work with the existing systems. It’s a lot harder than scraping existing web sites and calling it done.

It is one thing to develop an IT system to provide new functionality; you also have to make sure it satisfies a number of non-functional requirements (NFRs). Reliability, performance, security, maintainability, data integrity, accuracy are just some of the NFRs that must be determined and met. Even cost and speed to market (i.e., the time it takes to develop a working system) are important requirements. Then there are regulatory requirements you need to meet, from SOC 2 to HIPAA, depending on the type of system you are building.

In addition to all that, there may be technical or design constraints that you must meet. The organization you are working with may require that you use certain suppliers or certain technology for anything you build. You may want to use Mongo and Node in a GCP region in the US for your IT system, but your client might say it has to run on Azure in Canada using Java/Springboot and Postgres, so your new IT system will have to accommodate that.

Once you have taken all that into account, the organization may have some other requirements, including dates, that must be met. In the case of systems like the vaccine IT, that date is “yesterday”. That will force some decisions on how you build your system.

All that said, my educated guess – and it is a guess, because it is based on my experience and not inside knowledge on how the system was built – was that Ontario decided the quickest way to roll out the vaccine IT was to build on the basis of what already exists. For example, many of the individual pharmacies in Ontario have their own systems for working with their patients. And several hospitals I checked use other software like Verto to manage their patients. The integration of all those systems is on “the glass”. By that I mean you can go to the government web site (“the glass”) and then you are redirected to other systems (e.g. a Verto system for a hospital) to book an appointment.

There are benefits to going with this approach versus building a new centralized IT system. It’s cheaper, for one. But it’s also faster to rollout than a new system. It’s less prone to failure than a new system. If you assume people are going to sign up for COVID vaccines like they do flu vaccines, then you know this approach will work, and reliability is a key NFR. If you are designing IT systems, you have to make assumptions to proceed, and that one is based on things you know, which is usually good.

Unfortunately, it turned out to be a bad assumption. Unlike the flu, where uptake is around 30% and spread out, people are scrambling to get the COVID vaccine. This has led to the downfall of the current approach in Ontario as people try all sorts of ways to get a shot asap.

You might say: well that was a dumb assumption, why would anyone make it? In my experience, with new IT systems, it is hard to predict how people will behave. My colleagues once built a system for a government agency that allowed people to weekly update their status on their workplace. The system was available 24/7, but they had to put in their information by Sunday night, 23:59. All week no one would use the system, and then at 11 pm on Sunday it would get hammered with users trying to send in their information. We did not predict that. We assumed there would be peak usage then, but almost all the traffic was at that point.

To mitigate the risk of bad assumptions, IT projects will often do a gradual rollout. However that was never going to be an option here: people wanted the vaccine IT system “yesterday”.

Nova Scotia chose to develop a centralized system and people are saying Ontario should have done that. Possibly. It’s also possible that conditions in Ontario could have resulted in delays in rolling out a centralized system. Or the system could have been on time but failed often. Many IT systems and programs (e.g. Obamacare) have this result. Or some of the big hospitals and independent small pharmacies could have opted out. Then people would have been complaining about not being able to get a vaccine at all and that would have been much worse.

I am happy for Nova Scotia that theirs works well (although people are bypassing it and just showing up in Nova Scotia, so it’s not all roses there either). It’s fair to compare Ontario to them to some degree. And when all this is over, there should be an audit done by objective third parties to see what worked and what didn’t and what Ontario should do next.

I hope after reading this you have a better understanding of what goes into building IT systems for large organizations. I wish they could be built in a day or a week or a two week sprint even. I do know that large organizations are becoming more nimble and are working to getting out IT capability to their clients and citizens faster than ever before. But as you see, there are many things to take into account, and even with many people working on a new IT system, it does take time. Time measured in weeks and months and even years, not hours.

So the next time you hear someone say “they had all this time to figure this out”, take this into account. And thank you for reading this. I hope it helps.

Finally, these thoughts expressed here are mine and not those of my employer.

(Image is a link to the wikipedia page on system context diagrams, a diagram often used to determine how a new IT system fits in with existing IT systems).

Innovative furniture designs for small homes

I love small spaces, but a lot of mainstream furniture are not suited for it. That’s why I was glad to see this piece: Tiny home-friendly foldable furniture designs that are the modern space-saving solution we need! | Yanko Design

There’s some brilliantly designed furniture for small spaces, including the desk above. Click on over to Yanko Design and take a look.

Retio: One very cool radio

While generally I don’t like promoting devices on Kickstarter, I make an exception for the beauty above. As Yanko Design says, this steampunk radio, speaker and clock comes with a display made from real nixie tubes!. 

It’s very cool. Over at Yanko Design they have lots of beautiful pictures of it, plus links to the Kickstarter.

Love it.

 

The palette of Dieter Rams

This is fun. Someone has translated the colour palette of Dieter Rams and has illustrated them like this, with the Hex codes about them. There are a number of them on the blog of PresentandCorrect.com; here’s an example:

If you own any Braun products with his design work, you will recognize the colours immediatey.

The entire post is here. To be honest, the whole blog is great. Start at the top, here.

Incredible modular storage I wished IKEA offered

I love these playful modular cabinets that put a quirky spin on storage by using geometric shelves found at Yanko Design. You can mix and match the pieces to design the best storage for your room. And if you get tired of it, you just have to reposition things and you have a whole new look. Fantastic.

Good design: OneClock

Alarm clock

The clock shown about is the OneClock. It looks great on the outside, and it’s smartly designed on the inside. Over at Colossal, they say, well:

Say goodbye to the days of being jarred awake by the alarm blaring from your iPhone. The creative team over at OneClock designed a streamlined device with the intention of rousing people in a more peaceful manner, one with soothing melodies that are in stark contrast to the startling sounds many of us hear every morning.

Smart. For more on the clock, click on the link to Colossal. Not only will you learn more about the clock, but there’s lots of great photos of it too.

Crazy coffee tables!

Coffee table that is also a planter

Let’s face it: many coffee tables are boring. For a view of some that are anything but, you want to go to this link.

Take the one above, where you can have a coffee AND grow a garden.

For something completely different, there is this steampunk version:

Steampunk coffee table

There are also simpler but unique ones as well.

Smartwatches: more than just the Apple Watch

 

There was a flurry of smart watches coming on the market a few years ago. But that seemed to have died down. Now after reading this,
Innovative smartwatch designs that are the perfect culmination of form, functionality and style! | Yanko Design, I wonder if there will be a new outbreak of smart watches. Apple’s Watch is great, but it can’t be all things to all people.  To see what others are doing, check out that Yanko Design post. (The braille watch, shown above, is one example of smart watch design that is unique and brilliant.)

The anti-smartphone

I love this! Not just for the design, but for the thinking behind the design. To see what I mean, read: An Anti-Smartphone With a Rotary Designed and Built by Space Engineer Justine Haupt | Colossal

Contrarian or anti-design patterns get us to rethink the technology we take for granted. One of the reasons I love it.

Not your parent’s sofa

If you have ever shopped for a sofa, you can quickly start thinking that there is not much to choose from. If you think that, I want you to check out this: Sofa designs so good, they’re impossible to resist: Part 3 | Yanko Design.

For example, you have this burgundy beauty here:

As well as some that aren’t quite as out there, like this:

You might never want to approach any of them, let alone buy one, but after you are done looking at them, you will have to admit there is more than one way to design a sofa.

On Frank Gehry’s latest proposed building for Toronto

Starchitect Frank Gehry is proposing a new set of towers for Toronto, and BlogTo has the latest on it here: Frank Gehry towers in Toronto updated again and people say they look like cheese graters.

I like it. I like the lack of smoothness to it, a quality so many basic buildings have in the downtown core (though there are many good ones, too).  I like how it looks like towers of blocks slightly askew. I also like it has many units: we need more places for people to live in Toronto.

I do wonder, though, if the final version will look anything like that. Or even if it gets built at all. I vaguely recall that Gehry’s designs for his version of the AGO were scaled back due to lack of money. And the ROM designs of another starchitect, Daniel Libeskind, went through transformations as well, though I believe for different reasons It would be good to have more Gehry in Toronto. If we get it and what it will finally look like remains to be seen. It may not looks like a cheese grater at all by the time it appears on King Street.

If I had the space in a sheltered woods then I would build this home

So many small homes are…well…not great. Small! But nothing special.

This one is arguably an exception to it. Not only is it more attactive than most, but it is fairly fast to make: This DIY Guesthouse Cabin Comes in a Kit and Only Takes Three Days to Build | Apartment Therapy.

You can argue it is not a home at all. Fair. But it is related, I think. And worth checking out.

Do you love books? And design? And bookshelves?

bookshelf

Then you want to go to this page and check out the magical bookshelves there (like the one above). This lover of books and design absolutely drooled over them (metaphorically speaking).

(I don’t know how comfortable or useful that chair is above, but I love the idea of it.)

If you want to recreate a cubicle in your home, you can (but why would you??)

Hey, if you are really really really missing your office cubicle (why?) and you want to recreate that at home (why??), you can, with this:

Cubicle at home

It’s called the Hug desk, and you can read about it, here.

Please try and make a nice work place in your home instead. I wrote about home offices to die for, here.  These are much better to recreate, imho.

 

Retro radios, remade

null

I absolutely love this City Radio, shown above. You push the button and it play music from the city listed.  So cool. Love the analog design too. It reminds me of the best of Dieter Rams and Braun.

Part of the reason I love it is because it reminds me of the old radio my grandmother had. As a kid it had all the cities of the world listed on a glowing panel, and as I would move the dial a needle would go back and forth and play music from different parts of the world (depending how good reception was). That just amazed me then.

If you have technical skills, and old radio and a raspberry pi, you can make such a thing for yourself.  Just google “convert old radio raspberry pi”. Of the links I found, I like this and this and this.

Sure your dog’s bed is nice. But here’s how to take it to the next level

Sadly, you cannot buy this modular dog bed that industrial designer Hyemin Kim created called the MUF as a project for his studies. But if you go to this link, you can see more of his approach to making his dog bed that can appeal to all types of dogs. You might be able to take some of his ideas and apply them to your own dog bed. Your dog will thank you for it, because of course, they are a good dog. 🙂

The process of hand blocked wallpaper

Is shown, here.

Captivating.

Virtual travelling: hotels in New York for people who love design

Assuming these will still be around post pandemic, here’s 12 beautiful hotels to consider staying at in New York, starting with the TWA hotel which has been wonderfully remade. I have seen a number of New Yorkers staying there and posting pictures on social media because….why not. While the other hotels don’t have the benefit of being put in a  building designed by Eero Saarinen, they are still great. You can see them all here.

Alternative materials for buildings homes (concrete) and furniture (drywall)

I thought both of these pieces were interesting. First this one, on the home of artist Sue Webster (shown below)

and then this piece on drywall furniture: Drywall? Dry Furniture Takes On the Issue of Affordable Furniture (shown below)

Not sure I’ll ever warm up to furniture made of drywall or homes with that much concrete, but it’s worthwhile considering them and what it would be like.

Some of it reminds me of the houses and furniture that Frank Gehry used to build.  Perhaps we will all live in such houses in the future.

 

PPE for the .01%: the Louis Vuitton Monogram Face Shield

If you have more money than you know what to do with, by all means, get your own Louis Vuitton Monogram Face Shield. Details here.

How to be a better Maximalist

 

If you love maximalism but worry that you will get stuck looking more like a hoarder than a design pro, you need some rules to follow. Apartment Therapy has six rules your to follow, and you can find them, here.

I found the above image at vinterior.co which has gorgeous stuff. Check them out.

The very stylish MOON Coffee Machine

 

This beautiful coffee machine isn’t a product you can buy, but I wish I could. It’s beautiful. For more on this design product, including more photos, check out Stylish MOON Coffee Machine Design.

The timeliness of a stylish gray sofa

If you are about to buy a sofa, it is tempting to get something colourful and bold. I recommend you consider getting a neutral coloured sofa and let the other parts of your room do the colourful and bold parts. A solid gray sofa can provide a great anchor for the rest of the room. To see what I mean, check out these sofas. None of them are dull, but all of them work really well in the rooms they are in.

I also like gray because unlike some other neutral colours, it doesn’t show wear and tear as much. 

It may be fun to get a bright coloured or black sofa, at first. In the long run, gray is the best choice.

The soothing calm of Japanese minimalism in a canal house in Amsterdam

If you want to soothe your eyes and spirit with some calm today, check out this canal house in Amsterdam:

Design Milk has a feature on this place and every image is a sight for sore eyes. To see what I mean, take yourself to this page.

You’ll be glad you did.

Quote

On “Fast Fashion” Furniture


This piece
outlines how “fast-furniture” manufacturers have take a page from the book of fast fashion manufacturers and have gone on to make visually appealing but physically awful furniture.  It says:

Fast-furniture manufacturers (are) giving shoppers an opportunity to buy trend-informed furniture at a price that doesn’t force them to pretend they’re investing in the future. Wasteful though it may be, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to buy an expensive sofa if you don’t know where you’ll be living in a year.

So it should come as little surprise that much of this furniture isn’t great.

People want new furniture. They want to transition from stuff they find on the side of the road, or from IKEA, or even hand me downs from their family. But they don’t have the money or the patience to buy better pieces. This creates the fast furniture market.

File under “you get what you paid for”. Worth a read. Especially if you are attracted to the look and the price of some of these pieces.

Quote

Lenovo and its folding tablet


Tech manufacturers are struggling to make folding devices. So far the folding smartphones are not where they need to be. Lenovo has taken a different approach, by  building a folding tablet first, and not a folding smartphone.

Whether this will be a hit remains to be seen. But as the Yanko Design piece shows, the chance of success with a folding tablet is much higher than a folding phone. If it is a hit, it could lead to smaller devices (i.e., phones) eventually getting that way too.

Quote

What’s happening with Midcentury Modern Design


According to this, the interest in this style of furniture may be slowly fading:
Is Interest in Midcentury Modern Design Declining?

I’m not surprised. Revivals all have their rise and falls, and this style of furniture is overdue. Likely it won’t totally fade, since so many pieces of that era really blend in well with other styles of furnishing. It’s just likely you won’t see whole rooms dedicated to the style.

Quote

Great examples of how to use the colour black in your living space


Can be found here: Modern Brazilian Apartment for a Young Couple – Design Milk.

From black walls to black accents, this apartment has black everywhere, and it does so in a way that makes a strong visual contrast while still keeping the apartment bring.

Smart.

Quote

A masterwork of maximalism

Is this home featured here: This Cozy Minnesota Home Will Make You Want a Candelabra | A Cup of Jo

You really out to go to the site and check it out. Meanwhile, here’s a peek to show you what I mean:

Some thoughts on this:

  • There is a ton of objects in this photo, but they are orderly. There is a place for everything; things aren’t just thrown about.
  • The objects are all attractive: nothing is just stuck somewhere.
  • It helps to be in a nice room, but the good thing about maximalism is that you can turn even a boring box in to something attractive. (Much harder to do with minimalism
  • The colour scheme is consistent here. That helps rest the eye as it moves around the room.

I highly recommend you go to Cup of Jo linked to above and see the rest of it. It’s inspiring for maximalists like myself. 🙂

Quote

The Embroidered Computer. Fascinating.


First off, what is it?

The Embroidered Computer is an exploration into using historic gold embroidery materials and knowledge to craft a programmable 8 bit computer.

Brilliant. For more on the design and more photos, see here:  The Embroidered Computer | Irene PoschIrene Posch

Quote

Is the Citroën Ami One the future of urban vehicles?


I am not sure of the viability of this vehicle, licence or no: You don’t need a licence to drive the Citroën Ami One in Yanko Design,

I do think it is interesting though. And Yanko Design has great photos and a write up on it. Worth reviewing and considering it. We need alternatives to the automobiles we have now. Perhaps this is it.

Quote

A cool ride: the 2019 Honda Super Cub C125 Motorcycle


No real reason to post this other than I thought it was a nicely designed motorcycle. And if you are interested in a good way to get around a city, you might want to check it out, here:  2019 Honda Super Cub C125 Motorcycle | Uncrate

Quote

A bold maximalism


Meanwhile a bold maximalism is achieved here, not so much by the amount of items as by the amount of bold colours and prints used throughout the place. It’s still not a big place, but it feels right. I guess that is all relative, but I love this.

For more, see This Manhattan Home Feels Like a Jewel Box | A Cup of Jo

(Image a link from the above article in A Cup of Jo)

Quote

A good maximalist apartment


For fans of maximalism, you can get some good ideas on how to pull it off and still make your place feel orderly by checking out this post: A Book-Filled Manhattan Apartment Where Everything Tells a Story | A Cup of Jo.

If you love small spaces AND stuff, you need to learn to be a good maximalist. (Or buy storage.) That post in A Cup of Jo can help.